UK and Scandinavian gambling regulations

Online casino operators have made playing casino games and gambling accessible and convenient, making is possible to play from just about any place or location at any time of the day. When most players join an online casino, they look out for welcome bonuses, the range of games and the payment options. Few people look around to see whether there are any laws in place, whether an operator is licenced, which entity provided the licence or check for any issues which could have legal implications

Why you should always have a basic understanding of the law

Laws are in place to protect individuals, in this case mostly the casino players. There are several reasons why you should keep abreast with licensing and legal regulations; casinos in breach of licensing and regulation may be operating in a grey area with the intention of swindling players out of their money. In some instances, they may accept registration and funds from clients based in the UK, but then not actually allow UK residents to play. This could result in players unwittingly depositing funds to play and being unable to then withdraw or use the funds.

Another issue is fair play; licensed casinos are subject to monitoring by third-party bodies that ensure their games are fully compliant and their software conformant to pre-set standards. Online casinos use Random Number Generator Software to ensure their games are truly random. The committees of independent experts test the software used to establish whether gambling probabilities are statistically correct and fair. Unlicensed casinos are not allowed to use third party auditors and auditors cannot by law provide their services to unlicensed casinos. Using an unlicensed casino means players could be unintentionally gambling their money at casinos which have deliberately manipulated their software to increase the odds of a player losing.

Players should only play at licenced casinos which are regulated by competent authorities. In this way, they can be sure that their experience will be safe and reliable.

A note about the EU

The European Union has no legislation in place that is applicable to all member states; it leaves countries autonomous in terms of deciding how they wish to regulate their gambling markets and to create their own regulatory framework. This has resulted in very different regulations from one country to another. For example, some countries offer multiple forms of online gambling, whilst others limit the type of gaming activity. From an EU law perspective, the only requirement is that countries comply with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) –  a international law treaty which ensures member countries subject to the authority and principles of law  in those areas where EU law operates.

Gambling in the UK

The UK is rather accessible for gaming operators and casinos to provide their services. Regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, the gambling industry is open to both local and foreign operators. However, any high street or online operator needs to hold a valid UK gambling license issued by the Gambling Commission offer online gaming.

The Gambling Act 2015

The purpose of the UK’s Gambling Act 2005, which is very similar to Denmark’s Act 848 (see below) was to control all forms of gambling and replaced a dated legalisation dating back to 1845. The Act transferred authority for licensing away from the Magistrate’s courts,and giving power the UK Gambling Commission to which all gambling operators and casinos are answerable. Companies offering their services to individuals residing in the UK must prove that they are financially stable and provide fair games in terms of winning odds, statistical probabilities etc.

The original 2005 UK Gambling Act left regulation up to the country where the operator had its license issued. This however caused a rise to problematic outcomes and operators finding beneficial loopholes such as operators HQ’s to countries which extremely low corporate tax, which, spurred amendments to the Act in 2014. The amendments centred on stricter regulations, the requirement for all operators to gain a license directly from the Gambling Commission and tighter control on taxation practices.

The most important aspects of the Act include safeguarding children, vulnerable people and stopping criminal activities being funded by gambling activities.  Players need to be over 18 to gamble in most cases, whether it be at online casinos, at a football match, in a local bingo hall or a horse racing track.  There is an age limit of 16 when it comes to the National Lottery, scratch cards and football pools. There is not age requirement to play games at some amusement machines in family entertainment centres (also known as FECs in the entertainment industry) such as teddy bear grabbers and penny drop machines.

How far can the Gambling Commission go?

The UK Gambling Commission can levy huge fines to non-compliant operators, it can also:

  • Withdraw licenses
  • Prosecute
  • Enter and inspect premises
  • Seize funds, equipment and goods
  • Suspend bets or even declare them void
  • Issues fines

Gambling In Sweden

Sweden was historically a region with a state-controlled monopoly for all gaming activities. The live casino and online gambling was only provided by SvenskaSpel across casinos, arcades, bingo halls, restaurants, stadiums etc. SvenskaSpel operates four bricks and mortar casinos in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Sundsvall.

Understanding the need to modernize its gambling regulations, Sweden will be introducing re-regulated gambling laws from 1st of January 2019. The Swedish Gambling Authority (Lotteriinspektionen) has allowed foreign gambling operators to apply for a license to provide gambling.

Sweden’s new gambling law will see the introduction a license for all casinos offering their services to players in Sweden; casinos will also be paying 18% tax to the Swedish state. Another tricky piece of legislation is related to bonus offers. In an attempt not to incentivise gambling, operators will only be allowed to provide one bonus offer to Swedish players. This means that regular promotions and VIP clubs would become practically illegal. From the day that the law comes into force all Swedish players are considered new, so they can all be given one offer. As a result of this rule, the number of players switching online casinos every so often is expected to increase dramatically.

The law also introduces six distinct licences targeting both casino operators, charities, cruise ships and game creators. It forbids any players under the age of 18 from playing online and players under the age of 21 from playing in a land-based casino. More about the 2019 gambling legislation in Sweden.

The reason for regulation

The key take away from regulation and new laws, is that governments want to provide a safe environment for their players to gamble responsibly. Every country will have a gambling law or consumer marketing law that will aim to:

  • Deliver a safe and secure gambling industry for all residents, free from crime, addiction and fraud.
  • Protect children and young people from the dangers gambling.
  • Ensure responsible gambling by implementing measures to limit the amount someone can lose gambling or the amount of advertising or incentives that encourage excessive gambling
  • Have control over who is operating and collect tax from all operators providing a gambling service.

Gambling In Denmark

The Danish government held monopoly over the country’s gambling industry since Danske Spil was founded in 1948. This monopoly continued for over half a century until 2012, when Act No. 848 came into force and featured several new clauses particularly targeting online casinos. The new law has often been cited by other national agencies that have used it as a blueprint to help modernize their old-fashioned gambling rules. The 848 Act outlines four main objectives:

  1. The prevention of gambling being used by criminals or for the purpose of crime
  2. The protection of children and vulnerable people from the dangers of gambling
  3. The safe management of gambling by individuals
  4. The supervision of gambling operators to ensure a safe and responsible gambling experience

Regulated by the Danish Gambling Authority, the new law did allow the introduction of independent online casinos to compete with Danske Spil. Nevertheless, the country maintains a reputation for protecting its own national gambling operator and implementing several delay tactics when issuing new licences to new operators.

The Danish government recently suggested a limit on gambling bonuses offers to prevent problem gambling and protect players. Every company could be limited to offering just DK 1,000kr on bonus offers to their players. This is a blow to loyal customers of a particular brand, however players could shop around to find new promotions at the multiple licensed online casinos.

Gambling In Norway

One thing that might surprise you, is that it is technically illegal to gambling online in. The State owns and runs a few gambling organisations, such as Norsk Tipping for lotteries and Norsk Rikstoto for horse racing. However, foreign operators use loopholes to provide online casino and sports betting in Norway. The country is not an EU member state and not subject to the same pressure as its close neighbours to move with the times, open up the gambling industry and move away from a prehistoric. state owned gambling monopoly.

Online gambling in Norway is currently much more of a grey area. There is currently no law specifically targeting online gambling, but players will have their credit cards declined if they play at an unlicensed casino. The Payment Act restricts offshore online gambling operators as it instructs all banks not  to accept payments and conduct any type of business with gaming companies that are not physically based in Norway.


Gambling Commission: Licensing, compliance and enforcement under the Gambling Act 2005: policy statement (PDF) [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

GOV.UK: Gambling Commission [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Wikipedia: Gambling Commission [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018]

Statista: Casino industry – Statistics & Facts [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Lotteri Inspektionen (Swedish Gambling Authority) [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Gambling Commission: How we regulate the gambling industry [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

European Commission: Online gambling in the EU – Growth [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Wikipedia: Svenska Spel [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

European Casino Association: Sweden [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Gambling Commission: Young People and Gambling [Accessed 4 Dec 2018]

Wikipedia: Danske Spil [Accessed 10 Dec 2018] Online Gambling Laws in Norway – Current Legal Situation [Accessed 10 Dec 2018]

The Register: UK Gambling Act is now in force [Accessed 10 Dec 2018]